As many as 60 teens were prowling Charleston streets, randomly attacking pedestrians and drivers early Sunday, witnesses told dispatchers in 911 calls released Tuesday.
All the teens were black, according to witnesses, and all of the people attacked were white.
It’s still unclear if the attacks were racially motivated or sparked by the unrest in Baltimore, which followed the recent shooting death of Walter Scott, a black man, by a white North Charleston police officer.
Investigators have so far been unable to determine a motive, according to Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis.
James Johnson, who has led local protests after Scott’s shooting death, said he had not heard any explanation for the teens’ behavior.
“The Walter Scott incident is fresh in their minds, and then there’s Baltimore,” he said. “But there’s no telling. It could be just spur of the moment. I’m hoping we can find out. Whatever it is, we’ve got to go to the root of the problem so it doesn’t happen again.”
The teens were spotted leaving a party at the YWCA on Coming Street about 12:30 a.m. and hit the streets.
The motto of the YWCA is “Empowering Women and Eliminating Racism.” The group sponsors the annual local celebration of Martin Luther King Jr., who preached nonviolence.
Dot Scott, the leader of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP, said she had not heard anything to explain why the teens went on a rampage but was disturbed by it.
“I have no idea whatsoever,” she said. “It just seems unusual that folks would attack people that way. It’s atypical.”
The number of teens on the prowl is bigger than initially estimated, and the 911 calls released Tuesday show some of the terror the mob caused.
One suspect, Jordan Hall, has been arrested in the disturbing incident which resulted in dozens of 911 calls, including a man who called from his car and said he was being blocked by about 50 teens.
“They just smacked my car,” he told the operator. “I’m flooring it in reverse. This is just ridiculous. ... I’m getting the hell out of here, man. They just smacked another car.”
He then went on to detail the group beating a man.
“They’ve got a dude down on the ground,” he said. “There’s like five of them punching the dude. ... There’s a guy taunting me. I couldn’t make the green light because he was standing in the intersection taunting me. It’s pretty terrifying, man.”
The incident marks an ugly spate of racially charged violence that divides and polarizes underlying issues rather than addressing them.